Yesterday the Washington Post carried a story about the latest polling from the Pew Research Center regarding the Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Needless to say, for those of us in healthcare and for those of us in Washington, D.C., there was a high level of interest in the outcome. It might therefore be surprising to see what the polling indicated.
You will recall that the Supreme Court decision was being watched intently. Twitter was tweeting a mile a minute with updates; the SCOTUS blog which was live-blogging the events as they unfolded saw the ranks of people following it swell to enormous numbers in the hundreds of thousands; every major news outlet in television carried the news and in-depth commentary on it; it was the headline of nearly every newspaper in the country; and the news made news when important outlets ran incorrect information and there continued to be an outpouring of commentary and analysis as members of Congress and stakeholder organizations released statements on the decision. In short, this was news! It was the kind of coverage money just can’t buy – above the fold, everywhere you look, everyone knows about it news.
Sort of. Here is what Pew found. Of all respondents, a whopping 45% said they did not know what the Supreme Court had decided about the Affordable Care Act. That’s right, after all the publicity and coverage, nearly half of those responding did not know what had been decided. Moreover, 30% got the news wrong about the outcome.
There are political ramifications to that news, but that is for another blog. There are communications implications as well, and the sum of that is that even with a high profile event, to reach a general audience one has to engage in process communications as opposed to event communications related to news that goes beyond a very targeted population.
That reinforces not only an integrated approach to communications – one involving earned media, paid media, shared media and paid media, but speaking to the need of weaving the news into an on-going process to affect public deliberations.
That may seem obvious. But the Pew numbers present stark testimony to remind us of what is perhaps obvious, but still sometimes overlooked. News, even big news, still has to be a campaign and can’t rely on its own newsworthiness to affect public opinion.
The Pew statistic is sobering indeed.